Scifi Noir: a Dark, Beautiful View of Our Future
Editing in Science Fiction Noir: “Æon Flux”

For this posting I will looking into editing forms in Karyn Kusama’s 2005 Æon Flux.  Æon Flux takes place in a utopian metropolis used as the last refuge for humanity after a deadly virus killed off most the population.  However this peaceful utopia has a dark side, people disappear off the streets and are occasionally slain by police for no good reason.  The plot follows the femme fatal Aeon Flux who is a member of a secret resistance organization trying to stop the disappearances and take down the government.  I consider this a science fiction noir mostly because of its main character, the overly sexual, kick-ass cyberpunk warrior Aeon Flux.  She fits the femme fatal model well from her ambition to her lack of family values.  The film even goes so far as to compare her to her sister Una, who has a husband and house as if to further the difference.  Also the films dark ironic plot twists and tragedy are characteristic of classic film noir.  Finally, Æon Flux has the anti-utopia that is usually a staple in science fiction noir.

            Now I will move on to the editing used in the film.  Æon Flux is a great film to talk about editing with because it has action scenes that are heavy in the use of continuity editing, as well as several flashbacks that break the time-line of the film.  In a way film is sort of a virtual reality for the audience.  According to Todd Berliner and Dale J Cohen virtual realities exist when our brain does not experience the physical environment directly.  It essentially receives data from an outside source, in this case a film.  But how does a film trick the brain into believing something is real for the sake of entertainment?  Continuity editing is a prime example.  Although Æon Flux takes place in a fantasy science fiction world it uses continuity editing to make it seem logical and realistic. In this scene, Aeon is sneaking up on a few guards with really bad hours.  As you see in this frame she is throwing something.


 The camera then cuts to a shot in-between a guard and Aeon.  This implies that whatever it is she threw was aimed at the guard, hopefully just some candy or something.

 

Guess not!  Ouch…


 Hope he has dental…  Anyway, continuity editing gives a sense of chronological order.  Aeon throws the blade thingy, we see where it’s heading, we see where it lands, and we see the result.

  

  To contrast continuity there is the shot montage.  Keep in mind that a montage sequence does not necessarily have to break continuity however it often does as Karel Reisz would argue in the form of flashbacks that usually reveal something to the audience.  In Æon Flux they are used periodically to take the audience back to the time before the disease wiped out most of humanity.  First we see Trevor Current.

 

The shot goes to a nursery; we know that the characters are not actually there but rather that the film is revealing something.

 

As you can see some babies just gradually disappeared, that doesn’t actually happen so we assume that time is passing and the movie will explain why there are less and less babies.

 

We then jump back to Trevor’s face.  He explains some stuff…

 

And finally we see Trevor in the past wearing a non-futuristic lab coat explaining more stuff.  

Here, a montage was used to go back in time, forward a bit, back to the future, and then back to past to reveal a crucial plot point. Note the Sideburns.

I have briefly touched on the use of continuity and montage as a form of non-continuity editing.  Other than that, see this film its pretty solid.  Thanks!

References

Berliner, T., & Cohen, D. (2011).     The Illusion of Continuity: Active Perception and the Classical Editing System. Journal of Film & Video, 63(1), 44-63.

Reisz, K., & Millar, G. (1968). The technique of film editing ([2d enl. ed.). New York: Hastings House.

Cinematography in “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”

For this post I will be looking into the third installation of one of my favorite trilogies, George Miller and George Ogilvie’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  Specifically I will be looking into the cinematography and use of shot in the film.  First however I will briefly go over why this film fits my genre of science fiction noir.  In classic noir there is usually a morally ambiguous ex-cop like character.  The films main character Max was a cop until he saw his wife and baby murdered.  He then went on a quest of revenge against those who did it and has essentially been a shell of man ever since.  Max is almost a perfect fit for the burnt out film noir anti-hero.  Next there is the femme fatal of the story Aunty Entity.  Like the classic femme fatals of the 50’s she does not hold to the traditional family structure.  She is obnoxious and dominating and not afraid to commit acts of violence whenever necessary.  Also her outfit suggests masculinity, as well as sexualization two traits that are a must for any femme fatal.  Those two characters along with the film’s dark humor, gritty setting, and dystopian metropolis are what makes Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome a science fiction noir.   

            In his book The Elements of Cinema Stefan Sharff talk about how an artist (director) sends messages to their audience using a number of different techniques.  These techniques that drive a film’s plot are in many cases based on the type of shot used in for a particular part of a particular scene.  One element to consider about the shot is framing.  Framing is used to define the shot for the audience.  Take a look at this still from Mad Max, notice how the camera centers in the dust cloud.  This done intentionally to show the audience that something is about to happen to whatever object is creating that dust cloud. 

Along with framing there is mobile framing, that is to say a frame that follows a particular action.  One example from the film could be the plan swooping overheard at the begging or the camera following a conversation between characters.  Mobile framing is used throughout most films to follow action.  With mobile framing there is a need to remain aware of space in the shot, essentially how far can a character move without leaving the shot? As you can see in this frame of an airplane attempting to take off plenty of space is given in front to keep the plane onscreen as well as give the shot forward motion


Space off the screen must also be considered.  Once the audience has seen something in a particular scene they remember it even once the camera leaves.  I other words the audience is aware of what is going on off the screen as well as on.  Referring back to the plane still, if you have seen the film you know that the plane is taking off to avoid the forces of Barter Town.  Even though we don’t see them chasing, we still know they are in pursuit.

            Finally there is the long take or tracking shot.  According to an academic publication called “Knowledge Quest” a long take is used to establish a setting an often follows a character or just wanders around a set space.  In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome we see several; this frame is taken form a long take used to introduce Barter Town. 

          

The camera hugging the characters shoulder and bouncing gives the audience the feeling that they are entering Barter Town as well, giving them a stronger sense of participation.

            What I talked about above are simply a few ways that the shot is used to drive a narrative forward in a film.  Thanks for reading!   

 

References

Film. (2010). A Grammar of Film. Knowledge Quest, 38(4), 18-21.

Sharff, S. (1982). The elements of cinema. New York: Columbia University Press.

 

Defining Science Fiction Noir: “Terminator 2 Judgment Day”

 

For this post I have decided to look into characters and style of James Cameron’s, Terminator 2 Judgment Day from the lens of science fiction noir. The film has many aspects of science fiction noir that I have already discussed in previous blogs and some that I will be introduction. I will first look into the character of Sarah Connor as a classic noir hero. I will also look at the treatment of the actual terminators as evidence of this film being science fiction noir. Unconventional family structures are a common trait amongst classic film noir and we see them often in science fiction noir as well.

Fist let’s take a look at the character Sarah Connor. Near the beginning of the film we don’t know where she is until her son John queues us into the fact that she is currently being held in a facility for the criminally insane. It isn’t until John convinces the reprogrammed terminator to go to the facility that we meet here. The facility itself with its muted colors and darkness is perfect place to hold Sarah because it is a reflection of her. It’s like something is always looming, be it the sadistic guards or some type of monster doctor ready to perform some perverse experiment, just like in the facility in Sarah’s mind there is something sinister looming. Just the fact that the main antagonist, the T1000 model has decided to disguise himself a policeman, or servant of the state is reflection of Sarah’s paranoia to the law another common classic noir hero. After her son and the reprogrammed T800 she takes them out to the desert where she has a huge stash of weapons. According to Fred Pfiel Sarah , along with the T800 and her son they create some type of strange family unit. “This relocation of the family unit of Mommy/Daddy/Baby to the place where the noir hero used to be, out in the public and on the run” is both complex and connected to the changing of the roles in the actual family unit (Pfiel, 245). Sarah is the full-blown warrior woman and the T800 is essentially a baby learning about the importance of life and death and John, in a bit a sick way becomes the father figure teaching the developing T800 how to be a human. This deranged family encompass a major aspect of classic noir, it is a direct rebellion to a conventional nuclear family that is supposedly a trend of what American families are supposed to look like.

However John’s efforts to make the T800 more human bring up another question that we have seen in films like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell. Can something created by humans be human itself? I mentioned earlier that throughout the film, John continuously tries to teach the T800 the value of human life. In addition he tries to humanize it other ways like by teaching it slang and street smarts that ultimately influence the T800’s actions. Most notably his use of the line “Hasta la vista, baby” when he forces the T1000 into the pit of molten death. Doran Larson argues that this relationship between human and technology is important to understanding the film and thus ourselves. Larson makes the argument that the T800 is far more similar to humans than the T1000. First of all he must be repaired conventionally, also his metal structure id not unlike a human’s bone structure with his central command center being in his head, whereas the T1000 has nothing in this head, heart or otherwise but the strange liquid metal material. The T800 even makes a point not to kill the police officers laying siege to the corporate research center. However in the end Pfiel argues that even with the T800’s learned human qualities it is not human. Ultimately his rational computer mind forces him to lower himself into the pit of molten death after a touching moment with John in which he talks about how he whys why John loves humans, however he can still not. This decisions adds to the taboo of thinking that robots are the same as humans.

Overall Terminator 2 Judgment Day is a fantastic science fiction noir, that reflects and critiques our views on technology and what it means to us. I highly recommend the first two films in the series. Thanks for reading!

References

Pfeil F.(1993). Shades of noir: a reader. Copjec, J. (Ed). London: Verso.

Larson D.(2004). Liquid metal: the science fiction film reader. Redmond, S. (Ed). London: Wallflower P..

"Watchmen": Power and Violence in Science Fiction Noir

                                 

For this blog I will look into the form and meaning of Zack Snyder’s 2009 Watchmen.  Watchmen is a about a group of people who decide to put costumes and fight crime.  Eventually they join together and call themselves the “Watchmen”.  The film takes place in dystopian 1980’s New York City.  The film is based on the phenomenal graphic novel written by Allan Moore, animated by Dan Gibbons, and colored by John Higgins.  I’ll first address form and then go into the meaning of the film.

            Watchmen’s narrative follows several characters as they are enveloped into a plot by one of their former crime fighters (Ozymandias) to bring about world peace.  Normally the concept of world peace would be good thing however in this case the peace would revolve around a lie, and very violent one at that.  In this dystopian vision of the 1980’s the US (with the help of ex-watchmen) is victorious in defeating the communists and uniting Vietnam as a state.  This defeat of the communists in Vietnam and other various operations further antagonized the Soviet Union to the point that the only reason nuclear has not happened is because of the threat of Dr Manhattan.  Dr Manhattan as a character is extremely important to the narrative of the film.  He is a physicist accidentally turned god in an experiment gone wrong, and he is American.  He is essentially the US government’s ultimate nuclear attack deterrent.  He is a god but he also represents Christianity’s God, with his intelligence and powers he can really do anything however he won’t.  In his article “The Superman Exists and He’s American: Mortality in the Face of Absolute power”, Christopher Robichaud makes the argument that Dr Manhattan is not interested in saving the human race from destroying itself.  Robichaud claims that Dr Manhattan feels raw emotions such as anger however he lacks the morality to control said emotions and as result feels very much unattached from the human race.  This lack of attachment by Dr Manhattan could be a critique on religions in modern day society.  People are told to believe in various omnipotent beings, which won’t actually use their power to stop any of the world’s problems.

                

The Watchmen also brings into question the blurring of authority, in other words who is truly allowed to legitimately use violence for good?  Tony Spanakos makes the argument that “armed groups committing large-scale acts of violence could be terrorists, rebels, revolutionaries or soldiers” (35).  We see this line blurred all the time throughout the film.  At first the masked vigilantes are revered as true heroes operating above a corrupt system, however by 1977 Keene act that forced vigilantes to either retire or work for the state the people of America had decided that authority is better rested in back in the hands of the government.  Spanakos goes to point out that the one hero who does resists this new law is viewed a psychopath.  Although one has Rorschach’s violence really any different than the governments?  Sure, he may kill of few criminals while working a case but that is nothing compared to hell unleashed by the government on the Vietcong when Dr Manhattan entered Vietnam.  There is even a scene where we see the Comedian (another masked vigilante) burning an unarmed Vietcong fighter with a great big grin on his face.  In very next scene we see him shoot his pregnant Vietnamese lover dead.  Both of these victims, one essentially a surrendered freedom fighter and a completely innocent civilian seem fairly mute in comparison to the rapists and murders that Rorschach kills, yet for some reason he’s the psychopath.

            In this post I have barely touched the meaning of this great graphic novel and film however I do believe that I have brought up two very good points to think about.  One, is power really power when the owner chooses not to execute said power for good?  Also, what type of authority allows for the legit use of violence?  Thanks for reading!   

References

 Robichaud, C. (2009). Watchmen and philosophy: a Rorschach test. M. D. White Hoboken, (Ed.).  N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

Spanakos, T. (2009). Watchmen and philosophy: a Rorschach test. M. D. White Hoboken, (Ed.).  N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

Defining Science Fiction Noir: “The Matrix” a Brief Analysis

 

For this post I will take a look at Andy and Lana Wachowski’s 1999 The Matrix. This posting will basically look at The Matrix trilogy as a whole and will focus on genre analysis of science fiction noir in the film. First I will look at characters followed by the setting of the film both in out of the Matrix.

 

This film has a myriad of morally ambiguous characters that dress, act, and fit the many stereotypes of classic noir. My analysis will be on Neo and Trinity. First let’s look at our main character Neo. One the first impressions of Neo the audience gets shows him as being morally ambiguous. He is selling some sort of illegal software to some unsavory person. Neo also shows moral ambiguity when he defies authorities by siding with Morpheus. This is significant because according to what we know, Morpheus is considered a terrorist. It is also important to note actual names in this film, knowing the symbolism behind them will lead to a higher understanding of the film. According to Anna Dawson in her book Studying the Matrix Neo’s actual name Thomas Anderson is a way of making him blend in with the average man whereas his alias Neo is an anagram for “One” which he is often called. Also Neo itself means new, as in Neo is expected to the “one” to bring about the new world. Neo dresses in long, black trench coats, dark sunglasses and black combat boots. The trench coat is a traditional noir garment. One thing that I will say about every main character in this film is the complete disregard for human life. Neo, Morpheus and Trinity have no qualms with killing innocent security guards or policemen who just think they are doing their jobs, and for some reason sneaking into a building quietly has never occurred to them.

Next there is Trinity, the femme fatal, and martyr. Being one of the few central female characters in the film, Trinity holds a certain amount of power. Stacy Gilis argues that Trinity’s “position of power is the result of the intersection of two genres in the trilogy – cyberpunk and noir” (74). Gilis explains further that she is an “ass-kicking, leather wearing cyberpunk” yet at the same time she has the classic noir femme fatal style (74). Not only that, she follows the classic noir pattern, by being this action hero and breaking the rules set for women in society she is rewarded with death. Trinity is in a way the ultimate femme fatal, not only is she ambitious and has masculine features, like short hair, and broad shoulders she is also superior physically than many men in the film. Gillis however also argues that although Trinity plays the role of the femme fatal, she eventually becomes nothing but a servant of Neo. Trinity is essentially all the fears about the femme fatal, controlled by men first by Morpheus and then by Neo.

Next I will take a look at the setting in The Matrix. The Matrix is unique in that it “interestingly pitches two dystopias against each other” (Dawson, 36). It first introduces the audience to what appears to be a perfectly normal world. The illusion of normality is quickly broken when Neo takes the pill the that removes his physical body from the Matrix. The audience is then introduced to a dark cold hell in which the only place humans can survive is the center of the planet. Neo’s awakening informs the audience of both the outside dystopia and the virtual one. All the action that takes place in the Matrix happens in a crowded urban setting, the main characters however are isolated from the rest of the people in the city. Isolation in crowded spaces is common trait of noir, so it is unsurprising that we see it in The Matrix. One more thing I would like to mention about the setting is how the film makes extensive use of grid lines while in the actual Matrix, in traditional noir the use of grid-lines normally foreshadows imprisonment of some type. It make sense that the electronic prison of the Matrix would use grid-lines of buildings, fences, and sidewalks to symbolize the imprisonment of humankind.

  While writing this post I realized that there is so much in The Matrix to explore. T think that I have justified my evaluation of The Matrix as science fiction noir by explaining some of the films characters and settings. I hope you enjoyed my brief exploration of this great science fiction noir trilogy!

                                                References

Dawson, A. (2008). Studying The matrix (Rev. student ed.). Leighton Buzzard [England: Auteur.

Gillis, S. (2005). The Matrix trilogy: cyberpunk reloaded. Gillis, S. (Ed) London:                   Wallflower.

Remember, Remember the fifth of November: “V for Vendetta” and the Price of Safety

     

In light of recent events, such as the Occupy movements happening globally as well as on my campus I have decided to look into a particular science fiction noir that deals with themes of protest and disobedience.  I think it goes well with the current amount of distrust of government in the world today.  In this post I will be exploring form and meaning in James McTeigue’s 2006 V for Vendetta.  Form and genre often go hand in hand so I will start off by talking a little bit about form and why V for Vendetta fits my science fiction noir theme for this blog.  Next I will take a look at the film’s implicit meaning followed by its symptomatic meaning.  However before digging in I would like just to clarify that I am looking almost exclusively at the film and not the original graphic novel as there is slight difference in specific political context between them.  I have not read the graphic novel by Alan Moore, but in writing this blog I have found that my interest in picking it up has skyrocketed.

            V for Vendetta follows the life and actions of a young woman and a masked freedom fighter in a futuristic, totalitarian England.  The first thing to consider about form is narrative, V for Vendetta’s narrative if fairly dark and although the film does end in a somewhat positive light one has to decide whether the situation at the end of film is any better the beginning.  I say this film is Science Fiction Noir because of its dark, gritty aesthetic, its use of rain, its dystopian cityscape and its morally questionable characters.  Something important to note about the narrative in V for Vendetta is the concept of masks associated with a particular history.  The main character V wears a mask the entire movie to hide his identity, his hideous scars, and as a symbol of defiance.  His mask is an image of the Catholic anti government conspirator Guy Fawkes who was given credit for his part in the Gunpowder Treason plot on November 5, 1605, that if successful would have blown up England’s parliament building and murdered the King along with everyone else in the building.  In his book V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche A Critical Study of the Graphic Novel and Film James Keller talks about how this historical form manifests itself in the film as V wearing his Guy Fawkes mask, guards the bombs under the Parliament building and successfully blows it to smithereens on the fifth of November. We see this use of masks through the film although not as literally V.  The other main character Evey wears a mask of obedience in which she eventually sheds.  Evey is in a way a representation of the general populace who in the end all stand together and remove their masks as one as parliament goes up in flames.  The Fawkes mask in the film represents the 1605 Powder Treason as a symbol “to stand generally for the ambitions of a populace combating tyranny” (Keller, 17). 

            Let us now look for implicit meaning within the film.  I would present that V for Vendetta implicitly is about the dangers of an oppressive government and the average person’s participation in their own oppression.  In a chapter in his book From Utopia to Apocalypse Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe Peter Y. Paik talks about how trauma is used to enslave people.  In V for Vendetta trauma and catastrophe is unleashed by terrorist groups controlled by a political faction, specifically in the form of a deadly virus.  After setting the stage of tragedy the political faction simply needed to step in with the antidote and act as saviors, and then play on people’s desire for safety to put in place the oppressive system needed for them to stay in power.  The film literally critiques this trade of freedom for safety when V breaks into the national TV station and broadcasts his message on November fifth.

            Now I will make an attempt at the symptomatic meaning of this excellent film.  Along with Keller I think that this movie heavily critiques the both the Bush and Blair administration’s policies after the 9/11 tragedy.  As Keller argues, the film also critiques the general people’s acceptance of privacy invading policies as trade off for personal safety.  The prime example being Bush’s Patriot Act that passed very easily through congress even though it basically goes against everything an individual right to privacy.  In summary, Americans were scarred and in that time of fear looked to the Bush administration for protection and allowed a policy that could easily impede our freedom in return for safety.  This is a terrifying truth however I am thankful that there is still freedom to craft films like V for Vendetta to remind us that sometimes the price for safety is too high.

                                         References

Keller, J. R. (2008). V for vendetta as cultural pastiche: a critical study of the graphic novel and film. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Paik, P. Y. (2010). From utopia to apocalypse: science fiction and the politics of catastrophe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mise-en-scene in Narrative: “A Clockwork Orange”

In this post I will discuss the narrative function of mise-en-scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 1972 A Clockwork Orange. Although this film does not fit the many of the traditional film noir aspects such costumes, and character archetypes however it does have aspects of neo-noir like male comradely, a dystopian setting, general paranoia of law, use of color and plenty of violence. Along with its futuristic settings, costumes, and medical treatments A Clockwork Orange makes a fine science fiction noir, or maybe even a neo, science fiction noir.

   

The first aspect of mise-en-scene I want to discuss is lighting. John Gibbs argues in his book Mise-En-Scene Film Style and Interpritation that the “organization of light, actors and camera makes possible a series of possible readings” (6). .A Clockwork Orange often uses back lighting and shadows to frame its characters. For example when Alex and his droogs go to beat up the old man in the ally the light is coming from behind them, making them look sinister. Their shadows are long where the old man’s is short. Shortly following the scene in the ally Alex and his droogs run into another gang about to rape a young woman in an abandoned casino, back lighting is used to make their entrance into the casino more dramatic. In another key scene we see Alex and another man being back lighted from front. Basically the light source is in front of the characters and the camera is behind. Again shadows are used to show power.

The next aspect of mise-en-scene is costume. The costumes in A Clockwork Orange are contrasting. The youth in the film, the droogs where fairly plain, dull outfits that match each other. Alex and his droogs wear white shirts and pants, black hats and black boots. They also each have a different body part adoring their costumes somewhere, which is in a way reflective of the order of their gang. Alex, being the leader has eyes on his sleeve cuffs, implying that he is one who sees for the rest of the group. Adults in the film oddly enough wear a lot of color and have dyed hair. Reversing what adults and youth wear adds to the dysopian confusion in the film. The use of costumes I would like to point out our when our antihero Alex is in prison he is wearing a dark gray coat and pants with a red armband. This is a reference to Nazi fascism within the film, specifically it associates the government with the Nazis.

Another aspect of mise-en-scene is color and I think that in this film color is mostly prevalent in the costuming, particularly in Alex’s costume changes throughout the film. Alex essentially goes from white to darker colors and then back to white as he loses or gains freedom. His brief stint of a dark blue suite is after he had been conditioned to lose much of his free will. In the end, during his hospital stay, he is wrapped in white and in his fantasy scene where he proclaims that they cured him there are themes of white.

Next in my exploration of mise-en-scene in A Clockwork Orange are the props used in the film. There is a reoccurring theme of male genitalia within all the props in the film. In the first three sequences of the film there is a “display of phallic noses, dildos and large not-so-delicately-concealed codpieces (DeRosia, 68). In her essay DeRosa argues that the amount of penis like props used in the film are liked directly to male anxiety about about penis size and masculinity. On different note, DeRosa also call attention to Alex’s full name “Alex DeLarge” Finally I will call your attention to the scene in which Alex murders the cat woman. Beethoven’s music occurs several times throughout the film as a way to advance the plot, it is no accident that when defending herself from Alex that the cat lady uses a Beethoven statue as a bludgeon. Perhaps the most literal penis prop in this movie is the penis statue Alex uses to murder the cat woman.

Finally I will take a look at decor in the film. Décor in the film is highly sexual. In the first scene we see the inside of the Korova Milkbar in which the furnature is “composed of naked female mannequins in sadomasochistic poses” (DeRosia, 62). This décor is directly representative of the film’s problematic treatment of woman.

This is merely a brief look at how mise-en-scene is used in A Clockwork Orange to advance narrative. I highly recommend this mind-bending classic courtesy of the great auetor, Stanley Kubrick.  Hope you enjoyed!

References

Gibbs, J. E. (2002). Mise-en-scene: film style and interpretation. London: Wallflower.

DeRosa, M. (2003). Stanley Kubrick’s A clockwork orange, McDougal, S. Y.(Ed).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

"Blade Runner" When machines are the best humans, Part 2

In my last post on Ridly Scott’s Blade Runner I began to establish why it is a Science fiction Noir.  I started my argument by looking into the setting of the film which is very much a setting based in science fiction as well as traditional film noir.  I have touched a little on LA 2019 in Blade Runner as being symbolic of many aspects of the film’s plot including Deckard’s general confusion and lack meaning in his life.  The city is also very reminiscent of classic film noir settings.   Stephan Rowley argues in his essay “False LA: Blade Runner and the Nightmare City” that the influence of film noir is prominent in the film with the “cinematography that runs the murky gamut from rain drenched darkness to hazy brown smokiness” (Rowley, 205).  LA in 2019 is like cities in film noir but it also is a city rich in futuristic wonders, therefore it fits in as being a true science fiction noir city. 

Next I would like to touch on the characters and their costumes in the film.  I choose to looking into charters directly after setting because they are very much part of the setting itself.  Next we look at the main characters; Deckard is the classic hard-boiled detective wearing his classic long dark rain slicker.  He is one of the few characters we see in the film who doesn’t use an umbrella in the perpetually rained on LA.  As a result he is often wet and pale looking and very much a “tough, disillusioned cop” (Rowley, 205).  I touched on his general disillusionment earlier in the blog, it is also important to note in the director’s cut of the film it is implied that Deckard is himself a replicant.  Next there is Rachael, who appears like the classic femme fatal.  As Deborah Jermyn outs it “She emerges from the shadows – an entrance immediately linking her to the noir world” (159).  Everything from her 40’s style hair style to her long black dress and her thick makeup creates a powerful aura of danger.  As Jermyn argues she is the ideal visage of the woman as created by man, emphasizing the fact that she is artificial.  Like every main female character she is merely a creation made by man to serve him.  Ironically, Rachael switches from the role of spider woman to redeemer of Deckard.  In the end of the film they find love with each other if only for a short time with them both being replicants.  Next, I would like to look at the four replicants first as a whole.  They are the more of a human family than any of the non-replicants.  They are loyal and caring to one another.  When they find out that their friends have been killed they show deep sorrow.  Unlike the actual humans in the film they are together.  Characters like Deckard, Tyrell, and Sebastian are isolated and alone.  It is strange that that they are the ones who have to die.  It is important to view them as individuals well.  First Pris, who is the pleasure model replicant.  She appears at first as innocent but in the end, turns out to be the true spider woman.  She lures Sebastian under her influence using sex appeal and pity only so that her and her lover Batty could get to Tyrell in an attempt to prolong their lives.  Her punishment for her desire to live is death, and not a very pleasant one and it is no coincidence that she is dressed like a toy during her death.  It is almost like she was played with by man and then violently disposed of.  Next there is Zhora, who is working as an over sexualized dancer art a seedy club downtown.  She receives her punishment for her life as well, a bullet in the back while fleeing for her life.  There is also Leon, whose emotion flares to the point of violence at the mere mention of his mother that he never had.  Interestingly, he is killed by Rachael to save Deckard.  Finally there is Roy Batty, the clear head of the replicant family unit during the film.  To be brief, he is Jesus.  He is the ultimate martyr, he dies with a nail in his one palm and a white dove in the other.  He even saves Deckard’s life before his genetic coding shut down his body and mind.  He is the perfect specimen of mankind created by man and being so is doomed to perish.  He represents innocents and survival, vengeance and love for his family all highly viewed values of humanity and manhood.  His death is not due to other men but the will of his creator. 

All in all, Ridly Scott’s Bladeruuner is an absolutely fantastic science fiction noir that takes our views on technology, relationships, and humanity and shows them too us in a dark rainy cityscape where we hunt down our own creations not because they are less than us but because they are better.  It has the setting and the characters to classify it as a science fiction noir.  More, it is a dystrophic warning to us to reprioritize what we hold dear.  Thanks for reading!                

                                              References

Rowley, S. (2005). The Blade runner experience: the legacy of a science fiction classic. W. Brooker, (Ed.). London & New York: wallflower , 2005. Print.

Jermyn, D. (2005). The Blade runner experience: the legacy of a science fiction classic. W. Brooker, (Ed.). London & New York: wallflower , 2005. Print.

Defining Science Fiction Noir: “Ghost in the Shell”

 What makes a human being a human? What is it about ourselves that makes us what we are? This question is asked in countless films, particularly the type of films that interest me, science fiction noir. Along with this question of humanness brings up the question of acquiring and using new technology and as technology becomes more like humans when does it become our equal. With philosophy and technology comes money. When money is involved there are politics. People out to gain new technology for personal gain. A science fiction noir that revolves around philosophy, technology, and politics is Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 Ghost in the Shell.

The film follows the the actions of a police cyborg as she hunts down a computer hacker taking over peoples lives known as the puppet master. I will focus this entry on justifing why I call this film a science fiction noir as model for other film choices, first by analyzing the characters and then by the setting. Like, in classic film noir many characters are morally ambiguous. The first time you see the main character, she is mostly naked suspended from a building about to blow a man’s head off for no apparent reason. In fact you never really know why the first scene happened other than to show the audience how much of a bad-ass the main character is. One of the other main characters, perhaps a more stereotypical noir character fits the burnt out cop model rather nicely. He is lonely, prejudice, and proves rather unnecessarily violent when given the opportunity. Finally, there is the director of the police agency that the two earlier characters mentioned work for. He makes several controversial decisions during the film dealing with people’s lives. Even more importantly there is ambiguity in the main characters mind about what she is and what her life if about. Dani Cavallaro states in his book The Ciniema of Mamoru Oshii that the main character “Kusangi is undoubtedly plagued by doubts concerning the actual extent of her humanity” (191). These doubts about humanity are somewhat reoccurring in Science fiction noir most notably in Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner where the main character Deckard, ponders what it means to really be human. Interestingly enough the film has another major parallel with Blade Runner emphasizing the importance of memories to being human. In fact “both Oshii’s and Scott’s films emphasize “peoples dependance on material vestiges of the past” (Cavallaro, 189). The main character’s need to find her own humanity that she puts herself in harm’s way just to feel human emotions such as fear. There is also a constant paranoia of government amongst all of the characters, another theme of film noir.

Next we take a look at Ghost in the Shell’s setting. The action of the film takes place in an anonymous technology heavy metropolis. According to Wong Kin Yuen in her essay “On the Edge of Spaces: Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell” Ghost in the Shell’s sprawling techno-cityscape is based off of Hong Kong. All over buildings we see neon advertizing and signs that constantly illuminate the city. Water is key symbol in this film as it often is in classic film noir. It lends itself well to the science fiction in Ghost in the Shell “as a symbol for the flood or sea of data, its massive communication in a new urban topography” (Yuen, 107). We see it in Ghost in the Shell as a place of birth as well. The main character dives and swims in the ocean even though she knows that her cyborg components could easily drag her under the waves and drown her. She does this in order to prove her humanity by experiencing the fear of drowning and by doing so confirming her birth and status as a human.

Overall Ghost in the Shell is a great science fiction noir with many subtle aspects of traditional film noir. I highly recommend it.

References

Cavallaro, D. (2006). The cinema of Mamoru Oshii: fantasy, technology, and politics. Jefferson: McFarland & Co..

Kim Yuen, W. (2000). Liquid metal: the science fiction film reader. S. Redmond, (Ed.) London: Wallflower P..